Sweden, a land of great sophistication, has a rather difficult time incorporating simple concepts of foreign cuisine. The two that spring most readily to mind, as you may already have guessed, you observant reader you, are pizza and tea.
Let’s start with the pizza. Swedish pizza is gross. Really, it is. They start off fairly well, with a nice big, fluffy base, but then they ruin the whole circus by putting about a kilo of cheese on top (Americans please note, a kilo = about 8 quarter pounders, or the amount of sweat emerging from one’s arse during a Spiderman sequel). The resulting sludge pie is completely unappetizing, and barely suitable for feeding to pigs, and only very desperate pigs at that.
In fact, I was so shocked by the amount of cheese on a Pizza Hut pizza that I asked the waitress what the story could possibly be. “Dear waitress,” I said, “whatever is the story with this vile slab of pizza?”
She answered that people in Sweden like it like that, and in fact for many people the cheese is insufficient in quantity, and they order extra mozzarella as a topping. This creates a layer of cheese you could remove and use as a Frisbee, with extra cheese on top. Excuse me, for I must puke.
And then we have the tea. The Swedes, while knowing that such a thing as “tea” exists, still treat it as a kind of witchcraft. Upon asking for tea one encounters the baffling question – “What kind of tea?” The answer I used to give was “just normal tea” but quickly realised that this just gets you a funny look. To the Swedes, there is no “normal” tea, only tea in varying degrees of abnormality.
The Swedes, you see, believe that any and all flavours of tea should have fruit, flowers or funny oils in them. Furthermore, it should be served in a glass, without any discernible handles, and be far too hot to lift. I was served such tea a few weeks ago–the waitress complained “Hell, this is hot” as she “prepared” it for me, but presented to me anyway as it was, i.e. a glass full of boiling water with the slightest smidgen of tea leaf in it. Here was a glass of beige water that one could not consume without risking third-degree burns–and I still have to remind her to give me some milk with it.
Oddly enough she had a whole rack of coffee mugs in front of her but it did not once occur to her that I might have trouble lifting the boiling hot glass, and would prefer a mug instead. She obviously believed that the pain, and the tragic lack of tea, would suffice to sharpen my mind and complete whatever odd ritual I was pursuing.
Is it like this practically everywhere in Stockholm. Ask for tea, and will you get only a confused look, and some kind of pathetic brew involving hot water and scabby leaves in a little metal scoop without any milk. You would think that, at the very least, the people working in the tourist sector would have figured out what to do by now. But no.
And that old excuse “but we are not a tea-drinking country, you see” used to work, but not any more. It would be like an Irish waitress claiming that she “doesn’t understand this coffee stuff” and delivering to you a boiled turd in a hollowed-out elephant’s foot, along with a little jug full of goat’s semen.
So heed my words, oh tourist brethren – bring your own tea-bags, and wood-fired stove and do it all yourself, because that’s the only way you will get any decent tea, pizza or casual sex in this confused country.
Although I might be mistaken about the casual sex…